Civilian Airliner Shot Down Over Ukraine

As those reading this post know by now a Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777 was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border.

My condolences to all those killed in this tragedy,

Who’s Responsible

It is currently unknown who shot the plane down: the Russians, the Russian backed insurgents, or the Ukrainians. All have access to weapons capable of taking down the airliner.

While Ukraine has anti-aircraft weapons as well, but has no reason to be firing them at large planes since the rebels have no such aircraft at their disposal. Hence, I am more dismissive of the idea that the Ukrainian military shot down the plane, as Russia claims

Given recent activities in the area (namely the rebels shooting at and shooting down Ukrainian aircraft) I believe it was in fact the insurgents using Russian supplied equipment like the Buk missile system, which does have the capacity to reach the cruise altitude the Malaysian Airliner was said to be at. I also base this on the rebels own claims on a social networking site of shooting down an aircraft around the same time as MH-17 went down, post which later were deleted once it became clear a civilian airliner had been shot down.

So at this point, I blame the insurgent separatists and, ultimately, Vladimir Putin for instigating the military crisis in Ukraine through the invasion of Crimea and Ukraine, supplying rebels with weapons, and fomenting his pan-Slavic ethnocentric ultra-nationalism in the region.

What Should Be Done

Regardless of who is responsible for the attack, every effort (including military means if need be) should be made in ending the rebels assaults in Ukraine and bring those responsible for killing hundreds of innocent passengers on the plane to justice. I know that isn’t likely, given Putin is already spinning the blame to everyone else but his own disastrous policy in the region. If it turns out the Russian (or even Ukrainian) military is directly involved in attack, there needs to be some serious repercussions. Repercussions along the lines of a ban on all travel to and from the offender nation (or their sponsor), an world wide embargo on products, a rapid deployment of EU and NATO forces to all nations to form a buffer between the conflicting sides, stripping away of all international economic and sporting events, and so forth. In other words, no more weak willed verbal rebukes but tangible punishments that hurt those committing these acts.

What Will Be Done

Sadly, with our current president whose early thought this event was: “It looks like it may be a terrible tragedy”, I suspect nothing. I think Obama was channeling George W. there. “May be”? Seriously? Regardless of how the plane went down it is a tragedy.

Obama has shown himself to be spineless in the past in a whole manner of violence and conflicts erupting across the face of the planet so I expect little to nothing to be done.

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Crimean Russians Vote

So Crimean Russians voted to leave Ukraine today. No surprise there given that 60% of Crimea is Russian. My problem rises with a number of issues/questions over this supposed “democratic” vote and the legitimacy of the results. Too many of these issues are reminiscent of what typical dictatorships do when they attempt cover their actions under the guise of democracy.

  1. Russian military occupation of Crimea. That alone invalidates the vote in my opinion, especially without neutral observers to watch over the process during such a highly propagandized time.
  2. Lack of international observers from neutral countries (say from Africa or Asia). I laugh at the notion that the observer from Serbia are even remotely thought of as neutral. Serbia in general still resents the breakup of Yugoslavia and their loss of influence over the surrounding regions, blaming the EU and NATO.
  3. The swiftness of the vote, without any effort at real debate and discussion, just fear mongering and Russian nationalist rhetoric.
  4. Silencing of non-Russian controlled or dominated news sources and outlets.
  5. The “95%” pro-Russian vote, considering Russians only make up 60% of the population. The remaining 40% non-Russians made it clear they distrusted Russians given past oppression and current harassment by Russian troops in Crimea and Ukraine’s borders. Even then, noting the opposition in Russia to what Putin is doing in Crimea makes it clear even Russians do not whole heartedly agree with what is happening. So 95% support….no. Reads like the old Soviet era propaganda crap.
  6. 83% turnout. Maybe amongst Crimean Russians but I doubt that was the case for Ukrainians and Tartars given overt Russian nationalists and Russian troops intimidating presence. Again, sounds like good ol’ Soviet era propaganda.

So the vote went the way everyone expected, and only Russia will acknowledge as legitimate. I suspect this will just lead to Russia becoming more isolated and former Soviet states eagerly looking to align with one another, the EU, the US, and NATO to bolster political, economic, and most importantly in the face of Russian militarism and pan-Slavic nationalism, military cooperation. Even China while not openly going against Russia they didn’t support Russia at the U.N. this past week in move that subtly shows their disapproval of both sides actions in Ukraine.

I suspect we’ll get the usual huff and puff from Russia over the sanctions that will be put on them in the short term but long term who knows. Depends on if Putin is stupid enough to follow is pan-Slavic nationalists of the cliff into oblivion by trying to start a war to annex Ukraine or other former Soviet states. Right now I don’t see that immediately happening, but you never know. Most Russian leaders aren’t known for diplomacy or restraint.

As an aside, I hope Putin realizes the potential disaster he may have just unleashed on Russia by following in the footsteps of Hitler in using ethnocentric policies to justify his (as the Russians used to like call it) adventurism. By claiming the invasion of Ukraine was justified to protect Russians, he has now made legitimate any ethnic groups (i.e. Chechens, Ossetians, Tartars, et al) claim in Russia that they can secede from the so called Russian Federation for the exact same reason. And possibly have other neighboring countries invade to “protect” these ethnicities as well using the same or similar justifications.

Russia siezes Crimea

Sadly Putin continues his imperialist intentions towards Ukraine by sending troops into the Crimea region, in essence setting up a de facto puppet state for Russia there ahead of elections that were moved up by Russian nationalists. So the question is: now what?

For the world, it’s about holding Russia accountable for its violation of international law and territorial sovereignty of a foreign state. Those repercussions will likely come in some form of political and economic isolation and estrangement and possibly an increase in negative worldwide popular opinion. Certainly it will prompt some former Soviet states to consider distancing themselves from Russia and furthering ties with other nations and organizations outside of Putin’s sphere like the U.S., China, the EU and NATO. It may even revive efforts by some East European nations to revive plans for their own mutual defense organization to provide their own defensive buffer zones in case of NATO or EU abandonment.

Though Putin himself may care less about such things these repercussions could play significantly into the global political dynamic. For example, China (despite their occupation of Tibet) is a nation that has staunchly staid by its position that all national boundaries and territorial integrity should be inviolate. For Russia to so blatantly have a hand in Crimea via military force may prompt the Chinese to impose economic and political sanctions that would stifle efforts to improve Sino-Russian relations on a host of territorial, economic, and political issues.

For Ukraine, they must decide whether Crimea is worth the effort of trying to oust the Russians via political maneuvering as they would likely not be able to withstand a military conflict with Russia without EU, US, and/or NATO support. Given that Crimea was transferred to Ukrainian control in 1954 from Russia some Ukrainians might be happy to shed off the pro-Russian region. For others, even Russians living in Ukraine it will be a matter of pride to not allow Putin’s military aggression to go unanswered.

For Putin, he has effectively crushed his own efforts to improve Russia’s standing in the world by interfering in such a knee jerk reaction. As one of my Russian associates put it Putin was “interfering too soon”, by which he meant events in Crimea and Ukraine did warrant the disproportionate Russian response and Putin should have waited for a “legitimate reason to invade” (per the same Russian associate). Putin’s action may play well to the blind nationalists and imperialists in Russia but it doesn’t address the nation’s ongoing socio-economic and political problems while likely harming economic and investments meant to address Russia’s woes.

For now, the region is tense but generally calm. It’s now a matter of how each side approaches the events in Ukraine, hopefully with a mind towards not repeating the mistakes of history (i.e. Sudetenland 1938), Russia returning to pre-crisis military deployments and Ukrainian territorial integrity reinstituted.

Russia Flexes Muscle at Ukrainian Crisis

Sadly it appears Russia (and by this I mean Putin and his cronies more than anything) is trying to intimidate its neighbors with its military after Ukraine ousted its pro-Moscow President amid protests over his questionable turn around from the EU in favor of Russia. Sound familiar? (I.e. 2008 Georgia invasion). Whether you support the Ukrainian’s protesters or the ousted President, I think it’s fair to say that no one wants Putin invading another country, especially when it would merely confirm in the eyes of many in the world that he has become nothing more than a dictator.

Do I think he will? Possibly, but only after he foments rebellion and stokes ethnic tensions (as he did Georgia) to justify an invasion to “protect” Russians and get nationalistic pride ramped up at home to quash any who question his actions.  Such measures in the past with the Ossetians certainly didn’t get them what they wanted from the Russian invasion of Georgia – an independent nation combining North Ossetia (which Russia hypocritically refuses to give up) and South Ossetia (which Russia recognizes as an Ossetian independent state).

As for our own politicians, I have no idea if they’ll continue to support Ukraine or if they’ll allow Putin to do as he pleases. Given the recent weak willed and limp wristed approach of our government to world affairs, I do not think things bode well for Western support for Ukraine.

Ultimately I would prefer Russia and the West (and honestly, everyone) alike stay out of Ukraine’s affairs and let them work it out internally.

Senators Ask President to Explain Open Mic Comments

Joe Lieberman, John McCain Ask President Obama To Explain Medvedev Open Mic Comments

“I thought that President Obama’s statement to President Medvedev was disconcerting,” said Lieberman of Connecticut at a news conference with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and John Hoeven (R-N.D.).

It is rather disconcerting to have a U.S. President making such comments. It’s brings up a number of questions while bringing about annoyance about the President’s arrogance and suspicions over his motives. Primarily the question is this: What exactly is Obama going to be flexible on with Russians? Given his past distaste for missile defense in the past being flexible could mean he would attempt to persuade Congress to kill the program since the President can’t do so directly. Doing so would likely be unsuccessful, even if the Congress returned to being Democrat controlled, given strong support in Congress for the missile defense program across the political spectrum.

So while I think some anti-Obama groups are just making political hay over this, there is a legitimate demand for the President to explain exactly what he meant by his remarks. Not only to the American people but to our allies in Europe, particularly Eastern Europe which has been feeling abandoned in some respect by the Obama administration in the face of Russia’s re-emerging hostility and belligerence towards former Soviet and Warsaw Pact members.

News Bits: Ossetia, Obama

So President Obama gave another useless, boring speech (along with numerous softball questions).

Obama News Conference: Economy A Hot Topic : NPR

President BARACK OBAMA: If the election is about the policies that are going to move us forward versus the policies that will get us back into a mess, then I think the Democrats will do very well.

Stick you fingers in your ear and hum real loudly, Mr. President. It won’t change the facts that the Democrats are going to suffer at the ballot box for moving us “forward”. Neither will repeatedly chanting the “Obama Mantra”: Republicans are evil, the “rich” are evil, business is evil, capitalism is evil, free trade is evil, oil is evil, banks are evil, money is evil, moderates are evil, conservative Democrats are evil, free speech is evil, questioning him is evil, tax breaks are evil (except when it garners support), making health care decisions for yourself is evil, small government is evil, etc., etc., ad nauseam. (Note variations that include descriptions like racist, bigoted, un-American, or any other word with negative implications.)

President Barack Obama Holds News Conference – September 10, 2010 « THE WASHINGTON REVIEW & COMMENTARY: Weekly News From The White House

Ossetia Bombing

15 Killed In North Ossetia Bombing

At least 15 people have been killed and 40 injured in a car bomb attack on a busy market in Vladikavkaz, capital of Russia’s North Caucasus Republic of North Ossetia.

Russia’s FSB detains 3 suspects in connection with N Ossetia bombing

Sadly this was inevitable after Russia invaded Georgia to sieze South Ossetia and Abkhazia after stirring up ethnic and religious tensions in the region to undermine the Georgian government. The Ossetia separatists made it clear back then that they wanted North Ossetia from Russia as well as South Ossetia to form their own nation. I suspect such attacks will become more common (as they have in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya) if the Ossetian separatists do not get what they want, especially the closer the world gets to the starts of the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Kazakhstan diversifies satellite suppliers

Kazakhstan to diversify satellite suppliers in future | International Space Fellowship

Kazakhstan will not name Russia as a privileged supplier of satellites and will announce international tenders after the launch of its KazSat-2, the head of the Kazakh space agency said on Tuesday.

Somewhat interesting given the potential market for satellites and launch facilities. More interestingly will be if Russia can get the new space center at Vostochny completed by the planned 2018 deadline. The Космодром Восточный (Eastern Spaceport) is expected to have several launch pads for both manned and unmanned flights and being inside Russia is expected to be more cost effective than continued rental of the Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.